Tag Archives: Customer experience

Epic Fail – forewarned is forearmed

13 Nov

12 CX traps for your company to side-step 

Who doesn’t like a good list? Here then are some personal reflections on stuff to avoid, as you embark on CX change.

  1. Lip service leaders who talk a good game
    • shallow support and commitment from fair-weather friends
  2. No navigational North Star
    • no compelling strategy and CX vision to identify the desired on-brand experience and guide design and behaviours
  3. No hard-wiring into the business rhythm
    • CX is an aspiration only without the right governance to drive business decisions
  4. Silo’d solutions for joined-up needs
    • functional and fragmented changes that miss the customer’s bigger picture
  5. Reducing customers to numbers
    • left-brain organisations struggle to recognise customers as people, not targets or statistics
  6. Making CX a project or an initiative
    • giving CX ‘flavour of the month’ status means it will never become ‘the way we do things around here’
  7. Measurement, the corporate comfort-zone
    • obsessing about metrics, reporting and methodology, as a substitute for acting on it
  8. Not winning the crowd
    • not sharing CX stories across the organisation, and joining the dots for everyone between strategy, activity and outcomes
  9. Wanting it all, now
    • unrealistic expectations and corporate impatience resulting in a potential credibility problem for CX activity
  10. Wrong metrics drive wrong behaviours
    • internal, or operationally focused reward metrics can drive unwanted behaviours that reinforce the silos and damage customer outcomes
  11. Fail to plan, plan to fail
    • being seduced by the tools and failing to look beyond the workshops and planning for the long road ahead
  12. Ignoring your own people
    • no mechanisms to harness the great insights and ideas from within, from exactly those people who have a huge interest in their company’s success

 

Think Small to Win Big in Customer Experience

19 Aug

20 cultural nudges for any organisation to keep it real

Words like ‘transformation’ are scary, right? And yet CEOs are always being told that ‘Customer Experience’ is ‘transformational’. Well, maybe, but we also need to get real, and recognize that customer experience is also about delivering today – a journey of a thousand steps begins with the first step and all that, so here then is my list of the smaller, more palatable steps to start that journey within the organisation.

START AT THE BEGINNING

  1. Join the dots: ensure that everyone in the organization has a deep understanding of the bigger picture, why this is important and how their own role’s contribution to the customer experience.
  2. Make the vision real: have everyone know what it means to live the brand for your customers and deliver the company’s uniquely branded experience.
  3. Follow the money: connect the cogs to understand the ROI of customer experience and how it drives the bottom line for the business.Start small, even with anecdotes and stated intentions, then track actions.

SIGNAL CHANGE THROUGH CULTURAL NUDGES 

  1. Don’t call it a project or an initiative: they suggest a here-today-gone-tomorrow mindset, an open invitation for cynics to keep their heads down and hope it all blows away like so many other initiatives.
  2. Look outside: admire and learn from the best in the world, whatever the sector, but especially not your own.
  3. Create and evangelize success stories: find, learn from, tell and celebrate stories of great customer experiences delivered.
  4. Get on the floor: get executives and leaders to spend time with and learn from the front-line via real, not stage-managed interactions, and role model new behaviours.
  5. Outlaw silo’d thinking: be alert to call out ‘back office’, ‘head office’ and functional thinking and look for ways to reinforce the mantra, It Only Works When It All Works.
  6. Get on first name terms with personas: create rich and insightful customer personas and put them in all your rooms to watch over – and challenge – decision making.
  7. Change meeting etiquette: start every meeting with a customer story, end every meeting by asking ‘what’s in it for our customers?’

 HELP YOUR PEOPLE TO WIN 

  1. Set the tone on day one: embed customer learning into new hire inductions to build customer empathy. Learning about internal processes comes later.
  2. Create internal advocates: make it easy for everyone to be advocates of the brand and – wherever possible – active users of the product.
  3. Harness employee power: find ways to make their voice heard, use their knowledge, experience, insights and energy to improve the customer experience.
  4. Recognise and reward, quickly and easily – find simple and informal ways to call out and celebrate great delivery. Hand written notes can make a huge difference.

EMBRACE CUSTOMERS

  1. Talk to customers: yes, I know. Obvious, right. Get leaders to ring lost customers, make visits and generally connect one to one with the customer. Invite them to internal conferences and generally find ways to bring them in and learn from them.
  2. Close the loop: on the other hand, don’t talk to them, unless you’re prepared to act on what you learn, and change things for the better. And never forget to them what you’ve done. Doing this can work wonders, and it creates a halo effect too.
  3. Give the benefit of the doubt: if in doubt, err on the side of the customer, and make sure your internal policies help not hinder customers.
  4. Have some respect: Change the language. Customers are people, not targets and stop asking ‘who owns the customer’? (The answer is, if anyone owns anyone these days, it’s your customers who own you.)
  5. Give to get: find small and spontaneous ways to surprise, thank and delight customers, and create positive memories and stories.
  6. Be social media savvy: recognize that great customer experiences are the best marketing there is today, so fix things super-fast.

The good, the bad and the ugly

7 Dec

Slide1

Customer experience is hot right now – there are plenty of great reports and facts and figures out there that help sell the story. Some are more powerful than others, some are plain worrying and some continue to highlight the deep void between the corporate view of the world and customers’ view. Here then is a roundup of some of my favourite numbers, pulled from a wide range of sources and commentators, the good the bad and the ugly. So, do the maths, and work out for yourselves where the real issues lie.

The good news is largely about what organisations say about themselves and their ambitions and plans. The bad and the downright ugly truths are much less about talking the talk, and much more about walking it too. And, as always, when you get down to the ugly truth, it’s all about the culture in the business. After all, every business that has customers is really in the people business.

 

THE GOOD

  • 97% of global executives say that customer experience is critical to their success (1)
  • 90% of executives claim that customer experience management is a top corporate priority (2)
  • 85% of customers state that they are willing to pay up to 25% more for a superior customer experience (3)
  • 81% of senior managers believe that gaining an understanding from the customer viewpoint is very likely to lead to ROI (4)
  • 59% of large global organisations have an ambition to provide the best customer experience in their industry (5)

THE BAD

  • 79% of those who complained about poor customer service online had their complaints ignored (6)
  • 61% of customers agree that ‘different people approach the handling of issues when something goes wrong differently’. Clearly, inconsistency in treatment is always going to be unsettling. (7)
  • While 80% of big companies described themselves as delivering “superior” service, only 8% of customers say they’ve experienced “superior” service from these same companies. It’s a similar story in banking: while 78% of executives say their customer experience has improved over the last year, only 28% of their customers agree (8)

THE UGLY

  • 96% of executives say that some culture change is needed in their organisation (9)
  • Only 31% of employees are truly ‘engaged’ with their organisations, across Europe (10)
  • 30% of managers are coping with 6 or more strategic initiatives at any one time (11)
  • Only 18% of consumers globally believe that business leaders tell the truth (12)
  • Only 8% of companies can confidently declare that they have been successful in changing their culture as a result of customer feedback (13)
  • Only 5% of companies actually bother to tell their customers what they have done with the customer feedback they collect  (14)
  • Only 4% of customers actually bother to feedback and complain to the company – the other 96% don’t bother. (15)
  • Only 4% of global companies are judged to be delivering excellent customer experiences (16)
  • A mere 2% of customers feel that their expectations are always met (17)

SOURCES:

  1. Oracle
  2. Forrester, 2013
  3. Right Now, 2010
  4. Institute of Customer Service, 2011
  5. Temkin, 2012
  6. Kissmetrics, 2013
  7. Beyond Philosophy 2010, CX Trend Tracker
  8. The New Yorker, Bain Consulting and People Metrics
  9. Booz and Co 2013
  10. Blessing White, 2013
  11. Simplicity Consulting, 2011
  12. Edelman Trust Barometer, 2013
  13. Syngro, Seven global challenges 2012
  14. Gartner
  15. Helpscout, 2012, quoting Understanding Customers by Ruby Newell-Legner
  16. Temkin, 2012
  17. Oracle – 2012, the Era of Impatience

The soft stuff is the hard stuff – unwrapping culture

29 Aug

Slide1

“Culture eats strategy for breakfast”. So said Peter Drucker and it’s a classic quote: spot on. The more I do and see the more convinced I am that culture eats just about everything. Without the right culture, no amount of charismatic leaders, off-site team building events and swanky cheerleading conferences will make much lasting difference. All the good words and intentions will wither and die on stony ground without the right culture.

So, what then is culture? Chris LoCurto says “culture comes down to two things: action and attitude”.  And as the HR Director at my old company told me, it’s about what happens when no-one’s looking: he tells a great story about three different types of employee, each one confronted by an empty crisp packet in the office corridor. The engaged employee instantly picks it up without thinking and drops it in the bin. The disengaged employee walks by on auto-pilot, thinking someone ought to do something about the standards of cleanliness in the building, while the truly disengaged person was probably the one who dropped it in the first place.

Now, “every company has a culture, either by design or by default”. So says a recent video from the CEO Show.

Here then are nine key questions to ask, amassed from plenty of reading, to understand how things really get done in your organisation:

Do departments and people collaborate or compete?

Warning signs to look for… There may be radically different cultures across teams and functions that drive radically different interactions between people. At the unhealthy end of the spectrum, there’s suspicion and mistrust and the dark art of budget planning becomes a zero sum game with winners and losers, and the idea of working together for the higher cause of (whisper it quietly) serving the customer is heresy.

How are decisions really made?

Warning signs… They aren’t really; it’s down to whoever was still talking at that critical moment when everyone else surrendered, for the sake of moving on (or because people were gathering outside the conference room, impatient to start the next meeting). Or, despite all the soundings and consultation, it’s really done hierarchically, by egos and status. 

Are people enabled or merely ‘empowered’?

Warning signs… Being told you’re empowered is not the same as being enabled. It’s not that helpful unless you also have the right tools and support to succeed. 

When confronted with bad news, how do leaders behave?

 Warning signs… Or, perhaps the first question ought to be, do the leaders get bad news, or is every scorecard a sea of green, which is nonetheless at odds with what peoples’ guts are telling them? But assuming the bad news gets through, which instinct is the first to kick in, of BIFFS? Blame; Ignore; Freeze; Fix; Shoot (as in shoot the messenger)

How do senior leaders add value? By criticising or constructing?

Warning signs… Managers who think the best way to add value is to hunt for flaws and ask the tough questions; all fine in moderation but not so good when the outcome is to delay, defer and depress. 

How is important information shared?

Warning signs… The endless and hierarchical waterfall that slowly cascades down, each time losing a little more meaning and nuance so that by the time the exercise is over, leaders are sick and tired of the whole thing, in fact they’ve already moved on.

How are employees recognised?

Warning signs… If “what for, exactly?” is the first response, then that tells you one thing. Clearly, recognition schemes are many and varied but as a general rule, avoid letting bureaucracy and process drain the life out of what should be a simple and fun thing to do – to acknowledge and thank.

How do big things get done?

Warning signs… Does nobody move unless there’s a signed off project, scope, and deliverables? The question then becomes, how easy is it for the business to adapt and absorb new things? Which leads us on to the last one…

How much time do people spend in meetings reviewing progress?

Warning signs… Some people get double, even triple booked. And ask yourself, what happens in these meetings? What percentage of time is spent on simply monitoring, reviewing and reporting on progress?

Finally, thanks too, to careerrealism.com for two more great questions that can also reveal so much:

  • What would you guess would be the five key words or phrases your (husband/wife/partner) would use to describe your company?
  • What is your favourite day of the work week? And why?

Surviving and thriving in the brave new world of customer experience

27 Jun

Slide1Without doubt, the world of customer experience is changing. I heard a great quote at a conference the other day, when the speaker said that we’ve moved from a world where companies had better technology than their customers, to one where the consumer has the better technology, and at his or her fingertips, than the companies we do business with, many of whom are hampered by old, complex, and multiple systems. Wow. That’s quite a shift in power.

That got me thinking. Lots of commentators talk now about how the world is radically changing as a result of the consumer’s new found power and status. Here then is my round up of the shifts in thinking and behaviour required for organisations to adapt to the new realities, survive and thrive.

  OLD WORLD COMPANIES… NEW WORLD COMPANIES…
EXTERNAL   ORIENTATION Serve shareholders. If making money is the goal, then shareholders and other investors, whose interests are typically short term in nature, are the masters. Serve customers. Their philosophy is, if you get it right for your customers, day in day out, then profit takes care of itself.
TIME   HORIZONS Live for the short term: a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush. Obsesses about making more money today out of its customers. Manage and plan around a different timeframe because they value the rewards that come from longer term thinking. And, they forgo the quick buck because the price to the business – losing customer trust and engagement – is simply too high a price to pay.
ORGANISATIONAL   FOCUS Are schizophrenic. They talk a good game publically about customers when necessary, and spam the organisation with posters and propaganda, but this doesn’t permeate the DNA. So, at other times, and in other meetings, the customer is entirely absent. Not only does this create confusion internally, it ultimately signals a lack of authenticity in the business. Are single minded in ensuring that the customer agenda pervades the business, in everything it does. (This is partly because they’ve joined the dots between happy customers and happy CFOs.) And that everyone is connected to the   customer agenda and how the business serves its customers. After all, if your own people aren’t proud of the customer experience they deliver, how can you expect customers to get excited?
ORGANISATIONAL   LANGUAGE Call customers (and   people) “assets”, talk about “share of wallet”, “target customers” and “owning” the customer. In these businesses, customers are numbers and scores in KPI dashboards. Are humble. They understand that the organisation needs its customers more than its customers need it. And, do all they can to relate to their customers, one by one, as   people, not numbers.
CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE DESIGN Create Frankenstein experiences for their customers: silo’d and fragmented companies create ugly, stitched-together experiences that feel disjointed, inconsistent and random. Understand that great customer experiences can’t be left to chance; they are designed with intent and require a seamless orchestration of the whole enterprise. This is how the notorious silos get busted.
LISTENING   TO, AND ACTING ON, FEEDBACK Conduct market research every now and then, query its statistical significance, what to act on and what not, and schedule improvements for next year’s plan (because delivering this year’s plan is already an impossibility) Treat feedback like oxygen, something the business needs every day to survive. They constantly listen and constantly act on the voice of the customer, and make sure the   customer sees this happen too.
CUSTOMER CLOSENESS Keep the customer at arm’s length. They’ll push periodic sales campaigns out, and control the script when selling to customers. And, yet when the customer has a query, it’s like they’re in hiding and it’s a long and lonely road to get an   answer. Jump to it. They work hard to break down the barriers, make ‘customer effort’ an important yardstick and welcome and seek out opportunities to talk and meet with   customers, who even turn up at internal conferences.
REPORTING AND   GOVERNANCE Value data and measure and monitor everything that moves. The result? Paralysis by analysis, or as I heard recently, they suffer from DRIP: they are Data Rich, Insight Poor. Ask ‘So what’? For them, less is more because they understand what really matter to customers (and therefore what drives business success), and are relentless in   challenging the data and then acting on it.
PEOPLE POWER Use targets, metrics and scripts to control and drive what their ‘employees’ are paid to do. This invariably makes it harder for the workers to do the job the customer wants   them to do.In these companies,   the Golden Rule is, would my boss be happy with my actions? Know that everything begins and ends with people, without whom there is no business. They obsess over recruiting the right people and then letting them be themselves. This   means doing the right thing for customers because the organisation sees the value in doing so.Here the Golden Rule is, if the customer was in the room, listening and observing, would they approve of my actions?

Sorry doesn’t seem to be the hardest word any more

24 Apr

Slide1

In the good old days (for “good”, read “bad”) when a company screwed up, it was a case of wait and see who notices, deal with complaints as and when they come in, and hope that nobody goes to the press. When (or if) the spotlight was finally thrown on the miscreant, a written statement to the press would have told us that the company had learned its lesson, and that such things just cannot happen today, etc. 

Well, some things don’t change; wait and see if we get caught still seems prevalent – but what does seem to have changed is the way that companies recognise they need to be much more proactive, sincere and even ‘human’ in how they respond, and to mean it!

 Saying sorry is the new black. It’s certainly not the hardest word any more    

 Take a look then at this little collection of video apologies (or, what passes for apologies, in some cases). Some are very new, some older. Thanks are due especially to the Wall St. Journal for a 2011 article that captures some good ones (referenced at the foot of this post).    

 Eurostar

 Although it looks like it was filmed in a broom cupboard, this one scores for being timely, rough and ready and, more importantly, ‘real’. And, the compensation offer is appropriately generous! 

JetBlue Airways

Here is an apology for the logistical snafus that grounded planes and people; pretty straightforward and direct, and again reassures listeners that they will learn, but with the less than specific ‘we’re-going-to-conduct-a-review-so-we-learn’ defence. On the plus side, the choice of venue is interesting – here is the COO, a man in the nerve centre of the operations, not in an anodyne media interview suite, and with his jacket off, so maybe he’s part of the solution, rather than just the spokesman? And, like many public apologies these days (Barclays in their one page ads from last year is a good example) he reminds us that he needs to re-earn our trust.      

SSE

SSE, a UK energy provider, was fined £10.5m this month for miss-selling. Here is the Managing Director of Retail in a video entitled Sorry isn’t good enough’. And yes, he’s at pains to stress that ‘it wasn’t me’, it all happened several years ago. This seems to be a sorry tale of yet another toxic culture, where targets and incentives were designed to benefit the company concerned, at the cost of its customers.  Is he truly remorseful? You decide.

Domino’s Pizzas

For a good and ‘human’ example, look no further. Here is the CEO’s response to a stupid and disgusting prank by two (now ex-) employees in one store. The interesting thing about this video is that it tracks audience reaction to the ‘believability’ of his words. This is a man talking with sincerity, passion and anger – watch how the scores shoot up as he talks of the business “reeling” from the incident, and how it “sickened” him. And of course, extra ticks for being very specific on the actions taken.

Netflix

Two people apologising, and it’s personal, but it seems to morph into a sales pitch for the new service too. Wasn’t much liked on youtube either, but then of course, there was a lot of anger around the move that eventually prompted the apology! Check it out here

Groupon

A good one, from Groupon. Scores for a very detailed explanation for what went wrong, and it’s open and humble.

Sony

Err, what’s with the backdrop ambient music? Maybe too slick? Take a look here.  

Toyota

Again, a nice one, detailed and specific, which is good. Nice to see a freephone number throughout, too, to add to the voiceover.

BP

Enough has been said about the CEO’s “I want my life back” comment already. All I can say is, don’t bother clicking on the link in the WSJ story at the end of this post, as you get a message saying, “This video is private”! Maybe they’ve decided to move on?

What, then, makes a good apology?

From the top – we don’t want to see a PR spokesman forced to go through the motions by his or her boss. We want to see it from the boss, or if not the boss, then the person accountable for ensuring it doesn’t happen again. And we want to be convinced that he or she ‘gets it’. Let’s not forget that a good apology ought to be worth its weight in gold – commentators talk of the Domino’s apology as a classic: by showing his anger and disgust, and moving to action, the CEO repaired many bridges.  

We want to see it – Press releases, full page ads, carefully crafted letters don’t seem to cut the mustard. We want to see sincerity, humility and be convinced that lessons have been learned and that things will change.  

Be specific – we want to feel that the speaker acknowledges the real details of the problem, rather than shies away from them, or talks vaguely. Without them talking about the specifics, the nagging doubt is, do they really understand what went wrong, and what it meant for those affected?

Be timely – better to be proactive, surely, than wait till the chorus of disapproval is deafening. And especially so if the trigger for the apology is a regulatory fine, or other public censure! There, the risk is the apology is perceived as too little too late. 

Actions speak louder – we want to see that the business is taking responsibility, now, and that practical action is being taken, in order to give us some belief that the mistakes of the past cannot be repeated. ‘Root and branch reviews’, internal investigations, audit committees are not the same as actions, by the way..the fear is, they are yet more smokescreen!

 

Finally, thanks to the Wall St Journal, for a 2011 round up of 10 CEO video apologies – I’ve used a few in this post, but for the full article, and access to all 10 (well, 9 given that the BP one has been taken down) click here

Are your customers out of sight, out of mind?

11 Apr

Slide1

It’s far too easy for senior executives to be seduced by numbers, graphs, charts, red-amber-green ratings, and generally let their eyes glaze over when they hear the word, customers. Especially if you’re sitting in a conference room up on the 25th floor – customers look quite small from way up in the rarefied air of the corporosphere. 

I’m always fascinated by how companies try to get beyond the numbers on the page. This feels pretty important to me – people who forget that their customers are, well… people too, with feelings and emotions, just like them, then find it all too easy to perpetuate the language of ‘target markets’, produce ppt presentations with arrows and bullseyes in them and talk about capturing share of wallet, and ponder, in all seriousness, questions like, who owns the customer? Errm…. newsflash: I’m not sure anybody owns me, least of all a company I just happen to have chosen to do business with.

So, here then are 12 great examples of how organisations seek to remind their folk that customers are people too:

Amazon is famous for having an empty chair in executive meetings that represents the customer. Throughout the meeting, executives are reminded to include the customer in their decision making processes, and to ask, what would we do if the customer were sitting in this chair, here and now?

TUI, a leading UK based travel company went one further and for several years permanently displayed three key challenging questions on their boardroom wall – see picture. Slide1

The software provider Adobe won a Forrester Award in 2011 for its customer immersion programme (see short film) which is all about getting executives to stop thinking like boardroom automatons, and step into the customers’ shoes for a day, and build empathy.

For another example of a more interactive experience, a few years ago, CIGNA (US Healthcare) developed an Experience Room in the HQ for their people to walk through and live the customer experience. Some 80% in total went through it. It set out the ‘before and after’ for how the experience is and how it should be. It was imaginatively done, so for example, there was a scary ‘wall of paper’ that was, as intended,  overwhelming and that made the point well; imagine if it was you receiving all this paperwork, and at a vulnerable moment in your life, how would you feel? This is a powerful mechanism to force the company to think ‘horizontal end to end experience’ and not ‘vertical functional silos’. 

USAA are renowned for making their staff ‘wear their customers’ shoes’ (clearly, recruiting from the armed forces helps too). As they say “we require all of our staff to live the lives of our customers – only then can they understand their unique needs”.  So, for example, induction involves eating army rations and wearing helmets and Kevlar flak jackets. USAA calls this living customers’ lives in ‘surround sound’. If you think this is too gimmicky for you, then consider the story I heard of the lady who joined USAA many years ago during the Vietnam war – her first job was to ring up troops stationed overseas for the war. Having got the ‘job’ part of the call out of the way, she was told to stay on the line for as long as needed and simply talk to the soldiers. For many, she was a lifeline back to the ‘normal’ world, back in the US.

Office Depot, a US business-supplies chain, has a “planogram lab”, a prototype store, where it brings in customers to co-create and test new ideas. As the Economist reported, it “also uses the old trick of forcing senior managers to play the role of customers”.

Deere and company (tractors, US) invite farmers who are buying tractors to visit the factory with their families. This is a chance to cement the relationship, but also for factory line workers to meet their customers, and maybe better understand the role their products play in their customers’ lives.

Talk to the customer – yes, I know, it’s not rocket science is it? As I shared in a recent post, SouthEastern does it in person – they regularly hold “meet the manager” events at London Bridge station in the rush hour, where 10 or so senior directors gather with their clipboards, listening to their customers’ tales of commuting nightmares. Others do it over the phone. Virgin Media are strong here – resisting the temptation to just have managers passively listen to calls, and for a day only (when, let’s face it, the urge to check in with the day job will still be strong), they have every manager spend a week back on the floor, being trained up, then manning the phones and at the end of it all, reflecting back on what they’ve seen and learned.  I recall a great conference presentation from 2 years ago when David Perotta of Vodacom talked about how he ‘ambushed’ a senior management conference in South Africa by announcing that in 10 minutes each table would be joined by 10 customers, ready to talk to the executives, answer their questions and ask their own, about the products and services! As you might imagine, David said there was a fair bit of trepidation at the outset, but 45 minutes later, he couldn’t get the managers to stop talking!

Finally, my old employer, Aviva made a series of short films celebrating ‘heroic’ service. They were well made, emotional, and they had a powerful impact internally. And, interestingly, one of the principles underpinning production was that the individual who had made such a difference for the customer was reunited with the customer. Moving stuff, watch this one for example. Finally, this film, from Cleveland Clinic is also a superb example of building empathy and customer understanding.

 

Links for more information:

CIGNA source : Don’t Yield on Customer Trust, IBM White Paper, 2009 

The Economist, The Magic of Good Service

Deere and Company: How Customers can Rally your Troops, HBR June 2011, available at HBR.org

 

%d bloggers like this: